- The University of New Mexico’s career services director uses alumni outcomes data to show current and prospective students realistic career paths associated with their program of study.
- Faculty members will also be able to leverage this information to demonstrate the effectiveness and marketability of their programs.
- The alumni data has also helped the university’s employer partners with on-campus recruiting efforts as they gain insight into the success of UNM students and graduates working in their organizations.
- Information about top regional employers can help students identify in-state work opportunities—especially valuable in light of New Mexico’s recent struggle with brain drain.
Answering the Question: What Can I do with this Degree?
As director of career services at the University of New Mexico (UNM) and president of the New Mexico Consortium of Career Educators and Employers, Dr. Jenna Crabb has a lot on her plate. But being a counselor at heart (she’s a licensed mental health counselor and has two graduate degrees in the subject), she still makes time to meet with students—students who are looking to their future and wondering how to make their college investment worthwhile. In fact, one of the most frequent questions she hears from students is, What can I do with my major?
In the past, Jenna and her team tried to answer this question by putting together resources based on O*NET and BLS data. This strategy worked for providing a high-level overview of possible program-to-career mappings, but it was time-consuming and couldn’t provide information specific to UNM.
Recently though, Jenna began experimenting with Alumni Insight, Emsi’s web-based software that provides access to over 106 million alumni profiles and résumés in the U.S., with the option to filter by alma mater, current occupation, degree type, and more. With this data, Jenna can see the actual employment outcomes of thousands of UNM graduates.
Now, Jenna uses Alumni Insight to help students expand their horizons and understand the full breadth of career opportunities open to them. For example, she recently ran a report to see all UNM alumni who are employed by the U.S. Forest Service. It showed that the number-one occupation for alumni working at the agency was HR specialist, and the top program of study was business administration.
When Jenna shared this with a student at UNM and asked what stood out to them, they responded, “I guess you don’t have to have a science degree to work for the forest service!”
“That’s what’s so cool about this for students,” said Jenna. “They get to see that there are alumni just like them working at the Forest Service in finance, or HR, or IT.”
Students aren’t the only ones who will benefit from this new data. Jenna is also preparing reports for each of the deans and department chairs at UNM to help them better understand and demonstrate the impact of their programs and the versatility of their graduates.
She uses the program-level filters in Alumni Insight to narrow her search by subject area, then drills down further to focus on graduates from specific programs. This provides a look at the top skills and qualifications, occupations, employers, and more for alumni of various departments. She then combines this with existing resources and feedback systems (including graduate exit surveys) to get the most complete picture possible of alumni outcomes.
When Jenna shared one of these reports with the chair of UNM’s economics department, he replied, “This is great!” and asked if they could make it available on the department’s website.
Jenna plans to do just that, making the data accessible to students online as well as through one-on-one advising. In light of New Mexico’s recent challenges with brain drain, the lists of top employers will help graduates identify work opportunities while providing entering freshmen (and their parents) good information about what majors offer the best chances of securing local employment. She also plans to continue circulating these reports to deans and department heads, so they have hard data to support them when they talk to students and other stakeholders about the career paths associated with their programs.
Strengthening Employer Partnerships
At a recent NMCCEE meeting, Jenna demonstrated Alumni Insight to the consortium members. Not surprisingly, the other colleges and universities were excited when she showed the kinds of questions they could address from the institutional perspective. But it also caught the attention of the employer members.
In particular, the U.S. Forest Service was intrigued by the report showing UNM alumni who worked at the agency. By showing not only the number of UNM alumni employed by the Forest Service, but also their job titles, top skills, and city of employment, the alumni data gave the Forest Service a more complete grasp of UNM’s contribution to their own workforce and the value of their partnership.
Furthermore, the data is informing the Forest Service’s own marketing efforts. As part of their on-campus recruiting process, the Forest Service likes to have student interns present to their peers about their work experience. Based on the new alumni data, the Forest Service plans to expand the range of positions that participate in these events to better reflect the diversity of job opportunities in their organization.
Other employers at the Consortium meeting were so intrigued by what Jenna shared that they contacted her the following week asking for follow-up reports filtered to show different aspects of the data. By using Alumni Insight, Jenna was able to easily keep up with these requests:
“The neat thing was how fast I could run it. I think people can be intimidated by all the different filters—I know I was! But with Alumni Insight, you can understand it pretty quickly by just getting in there and trying it. I can run some of these reports in seconds now.”
Extending the Impact
As she grows more confident working with the data, Jenna has begun looking for ways to share these insights with other departments and leaders in higher education outside of UNM. She and a colleague have reached out to the New Mexico Council of University Presidents and the state’s secretary of higher education, offering to showcase this data and share what they’ve learned. She believes this information will help colleges and universities understand the regional workforce and their own alumni’s impact. She even plans to share some data with local media and news outlets to help inform ongoing discussions about brain drain in New Mexico.
On her own campus, she plans to share this data with the alumni office, so they can use the contact information included in many résumés and profiles to facilitate alumni engagement. It’s even supporting a university-wide initiative called “The UNM Five,” which aims to highlight the essential skills that graduates should be able to demonstrate to employers.
These skills fall into the category commonly called “soft skills.” Using Alumni Insight, Jenna proves that even alumni working in STEM fields like engineering advertise their soft skills, such as “leadership,” right alongside more technical skills like “MATLAB.” This reinforces to students in all majors the importance of having and communicating these soft skills to employers.
Data Tools for Non-Data People
Despite all her recent work analyzing and sharing this data, Jenna doesn’t consider herself a data whiz. But using Alumni Insight, she’s been able to access the data she needs in an easy-to-use interface and get back to the work she does love—helping students get excited about their education and career.
“It’s been a great experience for me so far,” she said. “I’m not a huge data person. It’s not my passion. But I’ll be honest, I’ve had fun with this. Helping students get excited for what they’re learning and get excited for their career path is a win-win.”